History of Winterset, Iowa
From: History of Madison County, Iowa
And it's people.
By: Herman A. Mueller
S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. Chicago 1915
THE CITY OF WINTERSET
Winterset lies in Center Township and practically covers that subdivision of the county. The township is an
oblong tract of land, the north three fourths of which in equal proportions lie in the southeast and southwest
corners of Douglas and Union Townships, respectively; and the remaining quantity in the northeast corner of Lincoln
and northwest corner of Scott townships. The boundaries of Center Township were determined under an order of the
County Court, June 4, 1860.
SALE OF LOTS
It is to be noticed that lots increased in value in Winterset from the very outset, although at first the increase was very slight. There was no speculative period, nor were fancy prices asked or given, but the price of the lots in town shows a steady, healthful growth and increase. Herein are given the first values placed upon town lots in the county seat. Purchases made from six months to a year later will show the increase in value and afford an interesting point of comparison. The following table shows purchases made during the first six
months of 1850:
At the April term, 1850, of the Commissioners' Court, it was Ordered, That lot 8, in block 14, be donated to the Methodist Episcopal Church, and all other denominations can have a lot of the same quality.
On July 8, 1851, E. R. Guiberson, town lot agent, made the following statement of his official transactions up to that date:
Number of lots sold 157
Amount of sales $2,200.25
Amount of orders redeemed $1,375.13
Amount of notes on hand $478.00
Amount of cash on hand $347.12
It may be said that Enos Berger built the first house in Winterset and was the first settler in the county seat, coming in the spring of 1849. This building was fated to become historical, as within its walls the first stock of merchandise was displayed for sale in the new town; the county commissioners held their first session of court here and Judge McKay opened the initial term of District Court for Madison County in the storeroom. The structure itself was built of logs, and Berger, in addition to keeping a store, entertained travelers, the "Berger House" (later built) standing on the east side of the square being a stopping place for the stage. Some years after Berger disposed of his log cabin grocery courthouse, it was weather boarded and lost its entezprisedentity to a large extent.
The second house built in Winterset and the first after its site was chosen for the county seat, was a log cabin, put up by John A. Pitzer, on the west side of the square, in which he kept a store and the best one in the place. Within a short period thereafter, in the fall of 1849, Alfred D. Jones erected a log store building and about the same time the Roberts store building went up on the north side of the public square. Before the expiration of that locally historic year of 1840, Enos Berger, who seems to have been a man of great energy and enterprise, built a two story log house, on the east side of the square, designed for hotel purposes. The building was the largest in the county and was destroyed by fire. It was known far and wide as the Berger House, and later was given the name of the Goe House. This first hostelry, or tavern, of Madison County was long a place of great interest to the town and surrounding country, for here the stage stopped for meals and to let off the casual traveler who had arrived at his journey's end. And it was a good place, in fact the best in the County, to learn what the outside world happened to be doing, for the "newly arrived" was usually loaded with news, or able and always willing to regale his audience with a "good story." The "Old Goer House" long was one of the principal hotels in this part of the state and its large dining room of ten was given over to dances, parties, "socials" and other harmless chvertisements, while the barroom entertained guests of its own. In those clays whiskey was cheap and unadulterated and, it is said, "everybody drank," not only in public places, but had it in jugs and kegs at home. Private stills were set up in the county and pure whiskey could be bought for 20 cents the gallon. But after the Civil war, a tax was placed on the manufacture of the drug and the private still became a thing of the past; at least it has ever since been frowned upon and prohibited by the government.
The first person to sell groceries under a license issued by the Commissioners' Court was William Compton, who secured the privilege at the December term of 1849. It is said that Compton was without funds at this time, and knowing that John Wilkinson was going to Dudley after a load of merchandise (must have been for Berger), Compton requested him to ask a dealer there, named Church, to send him a barrel of whiskey. Church considered the matter seriously and decided to let Compton have eleven gallons. While measuring the stuff he remarked that Compton had been the victim of hard hick; that while going to the river after a load of goods for persons at Dudley, he had lost one of his horses. It seems Compton had lived a while at Dudley before locating at Winterset, and he was more than once heard to say: "That eleven gallons of whiskey staked me and out of the profits of its sale I was able to pay for a whole barrel." Perhaps the water he added to the stimulant helped not a little to increase the profits; as Compton was often suspected of not permitting his conscience to stand in the way of "good business." His store was on the southeast corner of the square.
Before the year 1849 had come to a close, a crude log building was erected on a plot of ground now part of Monumental Park and given the high sounding title of courthouse. Early in the following year Dr. J. H. Gaff and Dr. L. M. Tidrick had offices (?) in a room of the courthouse used by the recorder. It is highly probable these pioneer doctors took up but a small space with nostrums and instrument cases, for in that day the pioneer physician had little to do with and that little hardly filled his saddle bags.
During the year of 1850 the county seat had assumed some proportions. In addition to those established and already mentioned were A. D. Jones, who had put up a modest building, and in harmony with his surroundings. This became Jones' grocery and clothing store. On the same lot was John Dougherty's grocery and general mercantile establishment.
The pioneer drug store was opened this year by Joseph K. Evans, in one end of a log cabin. The other part was used for living purposes.
Martin Ruby was Winterset's first blacksmith, opening his shop in 1850, and about the same time David Wilhoit built a cabin in which to live.
The only building on the north side of the square was a log cabin, built by Frank Walkup. Here he maintained a grocery and dry goods store.
The first frame building in the county was put up in 1850 by John A. Pitzer and, of course, was the finest structure in the community. It was a one story frame, about 24 by 30 feet ground dimensions, and had three rooms - a veritable palace. This was the nabob's residence and stood immediately north of the old St. Nicholas Hotel, still holding its own on the corner of Jefferson and West Second streets: Not far away were the log cabins of William Compton and Dr. J. H. Gaff. And at this time, A. D. Jones, not to be outdone by his high toned neighbors, had a log cabin that would now about make a "tolerable like smoke house."
E. R. Guiberson, John Dougherty, George Hornback, M. L. McPherson and Aquilla Smith were living in the county seat in 185o and their habitations were of the log cabin variety. Not a street had been made; the town was but a wide sweep of prairie, wholly destitute of trees. The town remained at a standstill and increased in population slowly until 1854, when it exhibited renewed energy and many more houses were built, some of them of frame. Before the county seat had reached the period of its incorporation, the native stone had been quarried, dressed and utilized for building purposes, and today houses built at that period are standing in Winterset and performing their duties as satisfactorily as the day they were put up.
One of the first, if not the first, tailor to locate in Winterset was C. A. Gaskill, who located here in 1852, coming from New Jersey. He followed his trade about three years and then engaged in other pursuits.
I. G. Houk was a member of the famous "Holmes County clique," coming from the Buckeye State in 1850 and locating in Winterset with a number of others. He early engaged in real estate operations in Madison and other counties and was successful in his undertakings. Houk was one of the important men of his day locally and held various county offices.
Joseph J. Hutchings was here as early as 1851, coming to the state from Indiana. He walked from Newton over the untracked prairies and bridgeless streams and for two winters taught school. In 1852 he established himself in the real estate business in Winterset and became a man of large influence in the community.
Four years after the county seat had been laid out, John Leonard, a young lawyer, arrived here from the State of Ohio and took up the practice of his profession, in which he attained a very high place.
One of the foremost citizens of Winterset and Madison County was C. D. l3evington, who was born in Holmes County, Ohio, raised on a farm, studied law, took a course in medicine, went to California in 1849 and in 1853 settled in Winterset. Here he began dealing in real estate. In 1864, with others, he organized the National Bank of Winterset and became its president. He was always foremost in any enterprise for the advancement of the community and when the Des Moines, Winterset & Southwestern Railroad was being constructed he supervised the building of that part of the line from Sumnierset to Winterset, a distance of twenty six miles. He began life without a dollar and died in 1903 one of the wealthiest men in this section of the state.
Dealing and speculating in land was quite profitable in the early days and this was the inducement mainly for
the removal of W. W. Knight from his home in Indiana to Winterset in 1855. He commenced trading in land and followed
the occupation for two years and then entered the mercantile trade. He was one of the substantial men of early
and later Winterset.
THE FIRST DECADE
The year 1857 was one of great commercial depression, which brought on a panic that caused disaster throughout the United States. The distressful situation was keenly felt in Winterset and business enterprises of all kinds were brought to a standstill. Many of the pioneer business men were ruined and for some years afterwards the cry of "hard times" was universal. But by the year 186o, the village manifested concrete evidences of recuperation, notwithstanding the dread war clouds that then hovered over the Union. At the expiration of the year six religious societies were holding services in their own churches; there were fourteen lawyers ready to extend their offices to the needy; five implement firms; a bank, book store, barber, three shoe stores, five blacksmith shops, a butcher shop, nine carpenters, a dentist, four drug stores, seven dry goods establishments, twelve groceries, as many as now; three hardware stores, the St. Nicholas and Madison hotels; seven insurance firms, two furniture stores, two firms engaged in real estate deals, a livery stable, three millinery shops, two photograph galleries, ten physicians, two bakeries and restaurants; harness makers, wagon makers, chairniakers, three saloons, Morris Schroeder's brewery, jewelers, two printing offices, billiard hall, several stone masons, plasterers, brick makers and layers, a tailor, a gunsmith, painters, a veterinary surgeon, so that there was scarcely any article of merchandise needed that the local merchants were not able to supply. The professions were abundantly represented and no one was permitted to go thirsty for lack of a place where stimulants were on tap.
WINTERSET INCORPORATED IN 1857
By a special act of the Legislature, approved January 16, 1857, the Town of Tinterset was incorporated, and
in April, 1857, the incorporation of the town was perfected by the election of the various officials provided for
in the act. The measure for the incorporation provided that "the city shall be divided into two wards as follows,
to wit: The First ward shall consist of all that part of said city lying south of Court Avenue Street; the Second
ward shall consist of all that part of said city lying north of Court Avenue Street, provided the said city council
may unite, divide or change the said wards west of any of them whenever they deem the interests of the city require
it." It was also enacted that "every white male citizen of the United States over the age of twenty one
years and who shall have been a resident of the state six months and of the city twenty days prior to the date
of the city election at which he offers to vote, shall be entitled to vote at all the elections thereof."
As it would take up too much space to give a full list of all the officials of Winterset from the date of its incorporation
to the present, only the chief executive and clerk for each year will be here recorded. Their names follow:
THE CITY HALL
Winterset has very good municipal buildings. The city hall, which was built in 1883, stands on the northwest corner of Court and Second streets. It is a two story brick, and separating the main part from the boiler house is a high, square, brick tower, in which swings the fire bell. The lower floor belongs to the fire department, where is its apparatus consisting of trucks for ladder and hose, and stalls for two horses. On the second floor are the offices of the city cleric, city engineer and council chamber. Adjoining the city hall on the west is the one story brick building erected in 1885 for the electric light plant, where is installed modern machinery and equipments for the city's splendid system of lighting. The total cost of the city hall and electric light system is approximately thirty thousand dollars.
There were $60,000 bonds voted for water works at a special election, held October 12, 1908. The petition for the same was signed by 431 qualified voters. There were 355 ladies and 503 men voted for the proposition as to 52 ladies and 99 men against, or a majority of 707 for the water works. The plant was built and completed in summer of 1909. The actual cost was a little in excess of the $60,000 appropriated. Water is taken from six wells located one mile west of the city limits. These wells are twelve feet in diameter and twenty two feet deep. There are ten miles of mains. The system is practically self supporting. This system of wells has not given the city all the water needed; as following a drought the wells have not furnished as much water as was expected. The city has anticipated a demand for an increase in the water supply, and so has taken some steps to locate a more adequate supply of water commensurate with the demands. A very favorable outlook has been discovered near Middle River, about the same distance from town as the present wells are located.
The city has no sanitary sewerage system and is not likely to have until some way has been found to increase the water supply. The matter of sewerage was taken up by the council in 1910 and submitted to engineers for estimates and plans, which plans are now on file.
The first paving was done in the fall of 1911. The resolution of necessity was passed June 13, 1911. This provided for four blocks around the square, and the two blocks north of the square to the depot. The contract was awarded to the Bryant McLaughlin Asphalt Paving Company of Waterloo, Iowa, August 16, 1911. The bid was $2.09 per square yard for asphalt over a five inch concrete foundation. Curbing 35 cents per foot. The total cost of these six blocks was $27,840. This paving so far has given excellent satisfaction.
The following year the council concluded to further consider paving and passed a resolution of necessity March 6, 1912, to pave about twenty six blocks more. This contract was let May 21, 1912, to R. A. Elzy, of Marshalltown, Iowa, at $1.71 per square yard for asphalt over a concrete foundation. The cost of curbing was 36 cents per foot. This paving was completed about the first of the year 1913 and cost, complete, $76,718. In connection with this paving was the cost of storm sewerage which is complete with the requirements of the pavement.
The fire department is volunteer and is composed of fifteen members. Fred Hudson is chief of department and George Ackelson is driver of the fire team. The matter of procuring a fire team and driver was considered in September, 1910, and shortly after they were installed. The equipment consists of one steam fire engine of rather ancient pattern. It is seldom used now. One chemical engine not in use. The active equipment consists of a fire hose wagon and about Boo feet of hose. Since the establishment of water works this has been found satisfactory.
Some day in the not far distant future, Winterset will have a very beautiful park in a tract of land consisting of twenty acres, which the city acquired by piecemeal several years ago. The park lies in section 6, Scott Township, at the southeast corner of the corporation line. The first patch of land, consisting of 2 3/4 acres, was purchased of Washington Cassiday and R. A. Stitt, May 21, 1869, for which the city paid $57.50. On the 15th day of October, 1872, twelve acres was secured of C. D. Bevington and J. J. Hutchings, in consideration of $2,00o, and on the 17th day of September, 1875, the remaining six acres was bought of Henry Smith, and cost $200. The total amount paid for the twenty acres comprising the city park was $2,257.50 - a mere bagatelle as compared with the value of the land at the present day. For a good many years this beauty spot was given over to the pasturage of cattle and it was but a few years ago that certain persons, economically inclined to an inordinate degree, and having nothing of the artistic in their souls, suggested that the park be sold, and the money turned into the general fund of the city. This alarmed that class of the citizens having an eye to the beautiful and the essential needs of a growing community and incited them to resist any movement toward the alienation of the park land. Furthermore, certain of the women persuaded the council to desist from putting the land to any use other than that for which it was purchased and obtained authority to raise funds for its adornment, beautification and preservation as a summer resort and pleasure ground. With this object in view the women went ahead, secured money by ways and means peculiar to themselves and made considerable improvements on the grounds. This revived the dormant interest of the city in its park and it is now anticipated that within a year or two the authorities will create a park commission, under whose administration, with the appropriations which will be sought, the park will not only be one in name, but also in fact.
ROCK CITY CEMETERY
The cemetery belongs to the city and came into being in the year 185o, when an acre of ground was purchased
by the pioneer citizens of Winterset for burial purposes. The committee of citizens, of which A. D. Jones was chairman,
reported favorably on the selection of an acre of ground that had been examined, "in the neighborhood of said
town." The report also showed that the committee "Resolved that the Winterset cemetery be located on
or near the northeast corner of the claim belonging to one Davis, on a ridge southeast of Winterset, which continues
out from the residence of A. D. Jones, and consists of one acre of land, lying south of a certain oak bush, as
designated by said committee. All of which is submitted for the action of this committee."
FIRST NATIONAL BANK
Winterset has a quartet of the strong, reliable financial institutions that make for confidence in local business
circles and assure credit and standing abroad. The National Bank of Winterset was the first bank established, being
organized under the new national banking laws in 1865, by Dr. C. D. Bevington, Joseph J. Hutchings, W. W. McKnight
and others. C. D. Bevington was the first president and retained that position until his death in 1903. W. W. McKnight
took the cashiership at the time of the organization and retired therefrom in 1877. Judge Frederick Mott succeeded
Doctor Bevington in the} presidency and retired but quite recently, to take up his residence in Des Moines. Other
men of prominence have been connected with the institution, of whom may be mentioned W. S. Whedon, who for a number
of years occupied the responsible position of cashier.
CITIZENS NATIONAL BANK
This is a banking house based upon the confidence of its patrons and a sound financial system of conducting business. It was organized in 1872. J. J. Hutchings was the first president and D. E. Cooper cashier. S. G. Ruby, one of Madison County's leading lawyers and United States consul to Belfast, Ireland, served faithfully and well as president of the bank and later Dr. J. H. Wintrode, whose recent death was a sad and tragic one. James P. Steele, a leading member of the bar and an old settler, is the present high executive officer, while Wilbur J. Cornell has been cashier a number of years. The Citizens National is in a brick building standing on the northeast corner of Jefferson and First streets. The capital stock is $50,000; surplus and undivided profits, $35,000; deposits, $377,836.
THE MADISON COUNTY STATE BANK
The Madison County Bank was established in 1889, with a capital of $25,000. On September 25, 1905, the bank was reorganized with a capital stock of $70,000. This institution has a substantial standing in the community and has its home on the southeast corner of the square. Official list is as follows: President, E. E. McCall; vice president, Charles McMillan; cashier, Nelson Bertholf; assistant cashier, A. L. Stout. Capital stock has been increased to $100,000; surplus, $100,000; deposits, $597,000. In January, 1915, the bank was incorporated as the Madison County State Bank.
WINTERSET SAVINGS BANK
This bank commenced business October 22, 1902, with A. B. Shriver, president; Luther Fox, vice president; F.
D. Campbell, cashier; W. E. Grismer, assistant cashier. Capital stock, $25,000, which was increased to $50,000
The public library, which is at home in the beautiful building, a gift from Andrew Carnegie and the heirs of
Dr. Bevington, is remotely the outgrowth of the temperance revival of 1877, 1878 and 1879. As a result of this
temperance movement, it was resolved to establish a library. J. S. McCaughan, Doctor Bevington, Henry Wallace and
others subscribed liberally and used their influence to secure other subscriptions. The money so collected was
invested in books, and these were put into the keeping of the Young Men's Christian Association. The books were
kept in the room of the association and loaned to readers. After the Young Men's Christian Association disbanded,
the Woman's Christian Temperance Union took charge of them and room was secured in the courthouse, Miss Orpha Adkinson
giving much of her time gratuitously to the care and loaning of the books. This association of ladies also disbanded
about 1885 and the books were handed over to E. R. Zeller, then county superintendent. He kept the books in his
office during the entire four years of the incumbency of that office and loaned the books and kept trace of them.
About January, 1890, the movement for the establishment of a permanent library was first agitated by Mrs. S. J.
Gilpin and Rev. H. C. Herring, pastor of the Presbyterian Church; they were the most aggressive movers in the enterprise.
Subscriptions amounting to some $500 were received, and the lots occupied now by the Anthes Brothers lumberyard
were donated by Eli Wilkin. The lots were sold for $250, and a public entertainment was given at the old Knights
of Pythias Hall for the purpose of raising more money and dedicating the library. Refreshments were served and
the following program was carried out: Remarks by president, Rev. C. L. Nye; Books that Build Men Up, E. R. Zeller;
My Novel, A. M. Welch; Triumphs of the Press, W. O. Lucas; Dedication of the Library, H. C. Herring.
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